Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"It DOES Matter What We Believe About the Future of the Church”

I have been busy during this week transcribing two New Wine Magazine articles which have an absolutely vital message to the situation within the Church today. They are:

"The Failing-Church Syndrome - It does Matter What We Believe About the Future of the Church” by Bob Mumford from the New Wine Magazine November 1986.

"The Will-of-God Prayer" by Dr Ern Baxter.

Why are they important and why are they related? Well ever since hearing John MacArthur's "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Pre-Millennialist" address to the Shepherds Conference this year, a deep considering of how we view the end-times has been heavy on my heart. Thus it was tremendously encouraging to read Bob Mumford's excellent article where he re-emphasised that our attitude to the end-times is important! Or as Dave Holden put it, "Our eschatology will shape our ecclesiology". Bob Mumford takes a lot of time and effort to show that we are all in danger of seeing the Bible through our favourite "doctrine" - whether it be the Cross, a negative eschatology, economics, covenant and so on. His article makes a tremendous statement for beginning to read those Scriptures that have been there since the Word of God was written - and to begin believing them!

Then secondly Ern Baxter's article on prayer has also helped me. In the run up to Brighton, I asked someone I deeply trusted whether I should go on a 40 day fast and was quite crushed when the answer was a resounding dont-be-so-stupid! It started me thinking through the whole concept of Divine Sovereignity (He is God - if He is going to come in revival then He will whether we pray or not) and Human Responsibility (You don't have because you don't ask - Ask and it will be given to you). Here's two key quotes:

"The point is this: Please don’t demean the gift of tongues. Get into your intercessory chamber and when you are driven past the point that you can intellectually decipher your problems and articulate them, don’t be ashamed to say, “Come Holy Spirit, take hold of these things and articulate them to the Father because I don’t know how or what to pray

"We have said again and again, “If only God will move”, Jesus said, “I will move but I will move in response to your praying-will-of-God prayers”. This amazes me, because it appears that God has put the government of the world – His ultimate purpose for the Church – in the praying mouths of His followers!! He is saying; “You will govern by prayer. You will release My power in the earth by your corporate praying as the redeemed community. I will respond to your prayer and My response will be My activity in history to achieve My ultimate purposes”.

I do commend both articles to you - even if you aren't a post-millenialist! The issue isn't what eschatology we hold but how we view the end-times.
Finally I must recommend this blog that I have just discovered (thanks to my great friend Don for this!). It is run by an SGM pastors son called Jesse Phillips and it is called "Prophetically Speaking - striving for a significant charismatic dimension". I've read most of the posts and they are excellent. He is taking great strides to deal seriously with the challenge to all who believe the charismatic gifts should be pursued and experienced in church today. He writes academically and is even hosting a resource site specifically called "The Charismatic Resource Centre". This quote particularly encouraged me;

"The lecturer in class today said: "If we are merely teaching without modeling, our teaching will have no effect." ... I thought that the same thing can be said about any practice, particularly the practice of the spiritual gifts. It is not enough that our statements of faith say that we believe the gifts are for today. It's not enough simply to comment on our desire from the pulpit".

Amen! A mere theological discussion isn't enough. Paul said, "Pursue"! So perhaps a bit more pursuing is in order and a bit less talk. Finally he has appointed himself, "self-appointed, unofficial live blogger for Sovereign Grace Ministries" and has written very fully on the recent SGM leaders conference for any who didn't go and are wondering exactly what happened and just how R C Sproul fitted in with people who say they are open to charismatic gifts! I was particularly stirred by a quote from C J Mahaney's single address to the conference;

"We should not gain our understanding of what it means to be charismatic from the charismatic movement, but from Scripture itself ... Scripture does not permit a mere affirmation of the gifts. We are called to experience all the empowering he provides"

Go visit - it's excellent stuff.


jul said...

That is very encouraging stuff regarding SGM. Perhaps they will take on legalism next!

I would love to hear more from you about fasting. I've been going back and forth with it for a while now, should I or shouldn't I? I still battle with legalism enough to be concerned about my motivation for fasting (though I'm not considering 40 days or anything). But I am becoming so desperate to have God's presence and power for ministry that I'm wondering if fasting might not (as Rob Rufus says) "sensitize" me to God's Spirit. I feel like there is some barrier, though not a big one, keeping me from entering into the life we are promised. It's most likely the last stubborn remnants of legalism.

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes I too struggle with fasting after hearing from someone I trusted deeply that it would be "a stupid thing to do" to go on a 40-day fast. I've done a couple of day and 2-day fasts but to be honest, I don't actually find going without food that much of a trial. This harps back to the days when I struggled with an eating disorder. It's quite easy to switch into "no eating"!

So while I was praying and seeking God I felt Him challenge me to "fast" something that would mean a lot to me. A crutch that I lean on and rely on to get through life but one that is not the Holy Spirit. So I fasted from that substance for a week and boy was it hard! But I tried it and did it because the cry of my heart was: "God we need You!! We are nothing without You!!".

So theologically I don't really have a clue. I am still struggling through the whole "God is sovereign" thing so if He wants it to happen then surely it will. But the fact is that He still commands us to pray and actually says we don't have because we don't pray. And furthermore the Lord Jesus said that there was some things that wouldn't happen without prayer and fasting. So we know we have to do it.

The question must be surely the state of our hearts. Are we doing it legalistically. Or are we doing it out of an expression of our deep agony and longing to meet with and see Him?

jul said...

I just finished Rolland and Heidi Baker's book (Always Enough) and found this quote:

"But we can't make revival happen. I know about all that forty-day fasting stuff. I used to do it so I could pray in revival. Now I do it just so I can be hungry for God. I do it so I can be poorer and desperately hungry and so I can relate to the hunger of a lost and dying world. I do it so I feel their pain and their suffering when I live with them in tents and refugee camps. It's a whole different place you see. I can't go back."

They strongly emphasize that the most important thing is to see the face of God and have true intimacy with him--ministry flows out of this and fasting is just a way to be more desperate for God.